Marvel, Xbox 360 ink for Web game

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John Gaudiosi
The Hollywood Reporter
Jul. 16, 2005 12:00 AM

Marvel Enterprises and Microsoft announced a partnership Thursday at Comic-Con International in San Diego to bring a massively multiplayer online role-playing game to its new Xbox 360 game console in 2008. The Microsoft Game Studios-developed game, which will allow hundreds of thousands of players to interact within the Marvel comic book universe, will feature such superheroes as the X-Men, Spider-Man, Blade, Daredevil, Fantastic Four and the Hulk.

This marks the second attempt by Marvel to enter the potentially lucrative MMO games space. The company cut a 10-year deal with Vivendi Universal Games in September 2002, but no game was ever developed. The license just sat there because Vivendi was in transition, said Tim Rothwell, worldwide president of the Consumer Media Group at Marvel Enterprises.

The new deal also comes on the heels of a partnership between Sony Online Entertainment and DC Comics to create a superhero MMO for PC and next-generation consoles for late 2007. advertisement

All this multiplayer superhero activity follows game publisher NCsoft, which beat everyone to the punch with its best-selling "City of Heroes" MMO. In November, Marvel filed an ongoing suit against Cryptic Studios and NCsoft Corp., arguing that "City of Heroes" allowed gamers to construct characters that bore too close a resemblance to those in the Marvel universe.

"We welcome any competition," Rothwell said. "We like to think that a game with true, authentic superheroes like the X-Men, Spider-Man and Hulk, which have global appeal, can stand up to anybody."

Microsoft has experience in the MMO business, having launched "Asheron's Call" on PC. But the company recently canceled its "Mythic" MMO and gave other indications that it was possibly exiting the genre.

Its interest might have been reinvigorated by the potential of the networkable Xbox 360, which is scheduled to go on sale in November. That system's architecture means many online functions previously available only on computers running Microsoft's Windows operating system are now potentially available on console games. At the E3 interactive entertainment conference Square Enix said it would be bringing its "Final Fantasy XI" MMO to Xbox 360, for example.

"Having this game on the 360 will broaden the audience for the MMO space dramatically," Marvel International president Bruno Maglione said. "MMO games are a rich industry that has been making its money off a relatively small user base of PC gamers over the years. With the marketing power of Microsoft and the processing power of Xbox 360, this game should open the MMO space for a whole new audience."

Rothwell said the details of the game play are still being worked out but that the game will not allow "thousands of Spider-Mans" to run around the game universe.

"Marvel has created some of the most iconic and exciting characters and stories in the past century," said Peter Moore, corporate vice president worldwide marketing and publishing for Xbox at Microsoft. "With this next generation of gaming, Marvel fans will finally have the ability to create choices with their favorite superheroes, villains and creatures in unbelievable detail."


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